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CIES is out with a mid-year edition of its annual Top of Mind survey, and it suggests that retailers and manufacturers are adjusting their priorities in the face of economic pressures from the recession. According to the CIES, “This latest survey shows that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is dropping down the list of priorities for the international food business sector, as the global economic crisis calls for changes to pricing, assortment and store formats.

“The Top of Mind Survey shows ‘corporate social responsibility’ – including sustainable development, social standards and corporate governance – progressively falling from the industry’s number one priority in January 2008 to third place in January and now fifth in June 2009 as recession bites across the world.

“By contrast, ‘the retail/brand offer’ – which includes pricing, assortment and format – climbed to third place, up from fifth in January. Another mover was ‘consumer marketing’ (such as loyalty programmes, promotions, advertising) which rose one place to rank seventh.”

CIES says that “the economy and consumer demand” is ranked as number one on food industry executives’ minds.

“While the fall of CSR may initially look troubling, I personally don’t feel there is cause for concern,” said Gareth Ackerman, chairman of South Africa’s Pick ‘n Pay Holdings and chairman of the CIES Summit Committee. “Between January 2008, when leaders gave it top priority, and now, retailers and manufacturers alike have completely rebuilt their business models to incorporate environmental and social sustainability into the DNA of their companies. Going forward, all business decisions must pass through the sustainability filter, or be rejected.”

KC's View:
One of the things that CIES will emphasize in its upcoming World Food Business Summit – scheduled to take place in New York City on June 17-19 – is the fact that there are numerous “ingredients for success” if you are in the food business…and that you can't depend on any one ingredient to create a relevant, viable offering.

FYI…as we have for as long as we’ve been in business, MNB will be providing exclusive reporting a commentary from the CIES Summit…which will feature such outstanding speakers as Brenda Barnes, chairman/CEO of Sara Lee; Pierre-Olivier Beckers, president/CEO of Delhaize Group; Justin King, CEO of Sainsbury; AG Lafley, chairman/president/CEO of Procter & Gamble; David MacKay, president/CEO of Kellogg’s; Jeff Noddle, chairman of Supervalu; Indra Nooyi, chairman/CEO of PepsiCo; Irene Rosenfeld, chairman/CEO of Kraft Foods; and Lee Scott, former CEO of Walmart.

It is an extraordinary list of speakers…and I’m pleased that MNB is contributing to the agenda … having produced a series of videos that will be shown at the conference, spotlighting some of the most interesting retailers in the US and focusing on their individual “ingredients for success.”

The CIES Summit ought to be “top of mind” for retailers and manufacturers that want to be both relevant and compelling…